Musical movies have been a beloved genre since the early days of cinema, with their ability to combine singing, dancing, and storytelling into an entertaining and immersive experience.
From classic Hollywood musicals to contemporary adaptations, the genre has produced some of the most iconic movies in film history.
Whether you’re a fan of catchy tunes or captivating dance sequences, there is a musical movie out there for everyone.
Best Musical Movies
In this article, we will explore some of the best musical movies that have captured the hearts and imaginations of audiences around the world.
1. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
“The Young Girls of Rochefort” is a 1967 French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, with music by Michel Legrand. The film stars Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac, and Gene Kelly, among others.
Set in the coastal town of Rochefort in France, the film tells the story of twin sisters Delphine and Solange (played by Deneuve and Dorléac, respectively) who dream of leaving their small town for a more exciting life in Paris.
As they prepare for a big dance event, they encounter a variety of characters, including an American sailor played by Gene Kelly.
The film features vibrant and colorful musical numbers, including “Chanson des jumelles” (“Twin Song”), which has become a popular classic in French cinema.
The film’s visual style is also notable, with bright, pastel-colored sets and costumes that give the film a dreamlike and romantic quality.
“The Young Girls of Rochefort” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and is now considered a classic of French cinema.
It is a joyful and romantic musical that celebrates the beauty and magic of life, love, and music.
2. The Sound of Music (1965)
“The Sound of Music” is a musical film released in 1965, directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
The movie tells the story of Maria, a young woman who becomes a governess for the seven children of a widowed naval captain, and how she brings music and joy back into their lives as they face the challenges of World War II.
The film is notable for its timeless music and heartwarming story of family, love, and resilience.
The movie’s performances, particularly from Julie Andrews, have also been widely praised, and the songs from the film, including “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Edelweiss,” have become classics.
“The Sound of Music” was a critical and commercial success, and is considered one of the greatest musical films of all time. Its enduring popularity has made it a beloved classic, enjoyed by generations of audiences.
3. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
“The Wizard of Oz” is a classic musical fantasy film directed by Victor Fleming and released in 1939. The movie is based on L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and stars Judy Garland as Dorothy, a young girl who is swept away to the magical land of Oz by a tornado.
In Oz, Dorothy and her dog Toto embark on a journey to find the Wizard of Oz, who they hope can help them return home.
Along the way, they meet a cast of memorable characters, including the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, and they face a series of challenges and obstacles.
“The Wizard of Oz” is celebrated for its imaginative world-building, colorful visuals, and iconic musical numbers, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The film has become a cultural touchstone and a beloved classic for generations of audiences, and it is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
Despite its enduring popularity, “The Wizard of Oz” was only a modest box office success upon its initial release, but it has since become a timeless classic that has been enjoyed by millions of people all over the world.
4. La La Land (2016)
La La Land is a 2016 musical romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
The film follows the story of a jazz pianist named Sebastian and an aspiring actress named Mia, who meet and fall in love while pursuing their dreams in Los Angeles.
The movie is set against the backdrop of the vibrant and colorful city of LA, and features a wide variety of musical numbers and dance sequences.
The film was praised for its stunning visual style, catchy songs, and the chemistry between its lead actors.
Emma Stone won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film, while the movie also won a total of six other Oscars, including Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song for “City of Stars”.
La La Land is a modern take on the classic Hollywood musical, and offers a nostalgic and heartfelt tribute to the golden age of cinema.
The film’s infectious energy, catchy songs, and charming performances make it a must-see for fans of musicals and romantic comedies, as well as for anyone who loves the magic of the movies.
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5. American Playhouse (1982–1994) Episode: Into the Woods (1991)
“Into the Woods” is a 1991 episode of the American Playhouse television series, directed by James Lapine and based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name.
The musical features music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Lapine, and weaves together several familiar fairy tale characters into a new story about the consequences of wishes and the power of human connection.
The film adaptation retains the musical’s score and features a talented cast including Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, and Tom Aldredge.
The film’s production values are impressive, with a visually stunning set design and costumes that bring the magical world of the story to life.
The story of “Into the Woods” is a complex and layered one, exploring themes of morality, responsibility, and the consequences of actions.
The show uses the familiar characters of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel to create a new story that examines the motivations and desires of these characters, as well as their relationships with each other.
The music of “Into the Woods” is widely regarded as one of Sondheim’s best scores, with standout songs like “No One is Alone” and “Children Will Listen” becoming beloved classics of musical theater.
The film adaptation does justice to the music, featuring strong performances from the cast and excellent musical direction.
Overall, “Into the Woods” is a must-watch for fans of musical theater and anyone who enjoys thought-provoking and emotionally engaging stories.
The film adaptation captures the magic of the Broadway musical and adds its own visual flair, resulting in a compelling and entertaining viewing experience.
6. The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (2011)
“The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall” is a 2011 film directed by Laurence Connor and starring Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess.
The film is a live recording of a special performance of the long-running musical “The Phantom of the Opera” that took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary.
The film features a stunning production that includes elaborate sets and costumes, as well as a full orchestra and chorus.
Karimloo delivers a powerful and emotionally nuanced performance as the Phantom, while Boggess shines as Christine, the young soprano who captures the Phantom’s heart.
The film offers a unique and immersive experience for fans of the musical, allowing them to witness the iconic songs and scenes performed on a grand scale and in a historic venue.
It also offers an opportunity for those who may not have seen the show before to discover its timeless and haunting beauty.
Overall, “The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall” is a must-see for fans of the musical and a great introduction to those who are new to it.
It is a stunning and unforgettable tribute to one of the most beloved and enduring stage productions of all time.
7. Sing Street (2016)
“Sing Street” is a 2016 coming-of-age musical film directed by John Carney and starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, and Jack Reynor.
The film is set in Dublin in the 1980s and follows a young boy named Conor, who starts a band to impress a girl he likes and escape his troubled family life.
One of the standout features of “Sing Street” is its amazing soundtrack, which features original songs inspired by 80s pop and rock music.
The film’s music perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the time period and is both catchy and poignant.
Another great aspect of “Sing Street” is its talented cast, particularly Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who delivers a fantastic performance as Conor.
The film’s characters are well-developed and the relationships between them are authentic and moving.
Overall, “Sing Street” is a heartwarming and entertaining musical movie that captures the spirit of the 1980s and the struggles of adolescence. Its catchy songs and talented cast make it a must-watch for fans of the genre.
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8. Mary Poppins (1964)
“Mary Poppins” is a beloved musical film released in 1964, directed by Robert Stevenson and based on the popular children’s book series by P.L. Travers.
The film stars Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, a magical nanny who comes to the Banks family in London to take care of their children, Jane and Michael.
The film is a classic example of the Disney musical genre, featuring memorable songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”
The film’s catchy tunes and whimsical dance numbers have made it a favorite among generations of viewers.
In addition to its memorable musical numbers, “Mary Poppins” also features groundbreaking special effects for its time, including a live-action/animation sequence where Mary and the children dance with animated penguins.
The film was a huge success upon its release, earning 13 Academy Award nominations and winning five, including Best Actress for Julie Andrews.
It remains a beloved classic and has been adapted into a successful stage musical and a recent sequel, “Mary Poppins Returns.”
9. A Star Is Born (1954)
“A Star is Born” is a musical drama film released in 1954, directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason.
The movie tells the story of Esther Blodgett, a young singer and actress who rises to fame with the help of a washed-up alcoholic movie star named Norman Maine, but whose success ultimately leads to tragedy.
The film is notable for its timeless music and captivating performances, particularly from Judy Garland, who received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Esther.
The movie’s exploration of the price of fame and the dark side of Hollywood has also been widely praised.
“A Star is Born” was a critical and commercial success, and has since become a classic of American cinema.
Its enduring popularity has led to several remakes, including the 1976 version starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and the 2018 version starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
10. The Boy Friend (1971)
“The Boy Friend” is a musical comedy film directed by Ken Russell and released in 1971. The movie is based on the stage musical of the same name by Sandy Wilson and stars Twiggy as Polly Browne, a young actress who dreams of stardom in the 1920s.
The film follows Polly as she auditions for a role in a new show, “The Boy Friend,” and eventually lands the lead role.
Along the way, she falls in love with the handsome Tony Brockhurst (played by Christopher Gable) and navigates the backstage drama and romance of the theater.
“The Boy Friend” is notable for its nostalgic and affectionate portrayal of the golden age of Hollywood musicals, as well as its charming performances and catchy songs.
The film also features impressive production design and costumes, which recreate the glamorous world of the 1920s.
Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, “The Boy Friend” has become a cult classic among fans of musicals and vintage cinema, and it remains a beloved example of the genre.
The movie has also helped to launch the career of Twiggy, who received critical praise for her performance as Polly.
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11. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Fiddler on the Roof is a 1971 musical film directed by Norman Jewison and based on the stage musical of the same name.
The film follows the story of Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman living in a small village in pre-revolutionary Russia, and his struggles to uphold his traditions and faith in the face of changing times and social upheaval.
The movie is set against the backdrop of the growing anti-Semitic sentiment in Russia, and features a variety of classic musical numbers, including “Tradition”, “Sunrise, Sunset”, and “If I Were a Rich Man”.
The film was praised for its stunning cinematography, powerful performances, and its ability to tackle complex and emotionally-charged themes.
Topol delivers a compelling and nuanced performance as Tevye, while the film’s supporting cast, including Norma Crane and Leonard Frey, also shine in their respective roles.
Fiddler on the Roof is a timeless classic that explores universal themes of family, love, and the struggle to maintain traditions in the face of changing times.
The movie’s rich cultural and historical significance, as well as its enduring popularity among audiences of all ages, make it a must-see for fans of musicals and for anyone interested in exploring the human experience through the magic of cinema.
12. An American in Paris (1951)
“An American in Paris” is a classic 1951 musical film directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant.
The film is set in post-World War II Paris and follows the story of Jerry Mulligan (played by Gene Kelly), an American ex-GI who decides to stay in Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a painter.
The film features a number of memorable musical numbers, including the title song “An American in Paris,” which was composed by George Gershwin and choreographed by Kelly.
The film also features a number of other Gershwin classics, such as “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” and “S’Wonderful.”
One of the most notable aspects of “An American in Paris” is its stunning production design, which captures the beauty and romance of Paris in the 1950s.
The film’s use of Technicolor is particularly impressive, with the vibrant colors and rich textures of the city coming to life on screen.
The film’s story is a charming and romantic one, with Jerry falling in love with Lise Bouvier (played by Leslie Caron), a young French woman who dreams of becoming a dancer.
The film explores themes of love, ambition, and the power of artistic expression, as well as the challenges of pursuing one’s dreams in a new and unfamiliar place.
Overall, “An American in Paris” is a timeless classic that continues to enchant audiences with its beautiful music, stunning visuals, and captivating performances.
The film is a testament to the enduring power of musicals and the magic of the movies, and remains a beloved classic of American cinema.
13. Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary (2016)
“Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary” is a 2016 film directed by Brett Sullivan and featuring a live recording of a special performance of the musical “Miss Saigon” that took place at the Prince Edward Theatre in London.
The performance marked the 25th anniversary of the show’s original production.
The film features a breathtaking production that includes spectacular sets and costumes, as well as a full orchestra and an impressive cast of performers.
The story is a tragic love story set during the Vietnam War, following the relationship between a young Vietnamese woman named Kim and an American soldier named Chris.
The lead performers, Eva Noblezada and Alistair Brammer, deliver powerful and emotionally charged performances as Kim and Chris, respectively. Jon Jon Briones also delivers a standout performance as the enigmatic and tragic character of The Engineer.
The film captures the intensity and raw emotion of the stage production, bringing the story to life in a vivid and compelling way. It offers a unique and immersive experience for fans of the musical and a great introduction for those who are new to it.
Overall, “Miss Saigon: 25th Anniversary” is a must-see for fans of the musical and a great way to experience the beauty and power of this timeless and haunting story.
14. Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)
“Till the Clouds Roll By” is a 1946 musical film directed by Richard Whorf and starring Robert Walker, Van Heflin, and Judy Garland.
The film is a fictionalized biography of composer Jerome Kern, showcasing some of his most famous songs and featuring performances by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
The film’s impressive cast includes Judy Garland, who sings the iconic song “Look for the Silver Lining,” Lena Horne, who performs “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” and Frank Sinatra, who sings “Ol’ Man River.”
Aside from the musical numbers, “Till the Clouds Roll By” also features an engaging storyline that traces the rise of Jerome Kern from a struggling songwriter to a successful composer of Broadway musicals.
The film explores Kern’s personal life and relationships as well, including his marriage and friendship with fellow composer Oscar Hammerstein.
Overall, “Till the Clouds Roll By” is a classic musical movie that showcases the talent of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and celebrates the timeless music of Jerome Kern.
Its combination of engaging storytelling and iconic musical performances make it a must-watch for fans of the genre.
15. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is a 1964 French musical film directed by Jacques Demy, with music by Michel Legrand.
The film stars Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo as young lovers Genevieve and Guy, who are separated when Guy is drafted to fight in the Algerian War.
The film is notable for its unique style, in which all of the dialogue is sung, making it an opera on film. The music, composed by Legrand, is memorable and emotionally charged, with the recurring theme “I Will Wait for You” becoming a popular classic.
Set in the French seaside town of Cherbourg, the film is also known for its vibrant color palette and stunning visual style. The use of bold, primary colors creates a dreamlike, romantic atmosphere that perfectly complements the film’s bittersweet story.
“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and has since become a beloved classic of French cinema.
The film’s timeless story of young love and separation, along with its unique musical style and stunning visual style, continue to captivate audiences today.
16. Great Performances (1971– ) Episode: Sondheim! The Birthday Concert (2010)
“Great Performances” is a long-running television series showcasing performances of music, dance, and theater. In 2010, an episode titled “Sondheim! The Birthday Concert” was aired, featuring a star-studded tribute to composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim on his 80th birthday.
The concert was recorded live at the New York Philharmonic’s Avery Fisher Hall, and featured performances from Broadway stars including Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, and Elaine Stritch, among others.
The concert celebrated Sondheim’s contributions to the world of musical theater, with performances of his most beloved songs from shows such as “Sweeney Todd,” “Into the Woods,” and “Company.”
The episode was well-received by audiences and critics alike, and was praised for its high-quality performances and celebration of Sondheim’s work. It has since become a favorite among fans of musical theater and Sondheim’s music.
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17. Guys and Dolls (1955)
“Guys and Dolls” is a musical film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and released in 1955. The movie is based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, which was itself adapted from the stories of Damon Runyon.
The film stars Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler who falls in love with a straight-laced missionary named Sarah Brown (played by Jean Simmons).
Meanwhile, Nathan Detroit (played by Frank Sinatra) is trying to find a location for his illegal craps game, and he makes a bet with Sky that he can’t take Sarah on a date to Havana.
“Guys and Dolls” is celebrated for its colorful characters, memorable songs, and dazzling dance numbers. The movie features classic tunes such as “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” as well as iconic performances by its talented cast.
Despite some initial concerns about the casting of Marlon Brando in a musical role, “Guys and Dolls” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a beloved classic of the genre.
The film has been praised for its witty script, lively performances, and stylish production design, and it remains a must-see for fans of musicals and classic Hollywood cinema.
18. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a 2001 musical film written, directed, and starring John Cameron Mitchell, based on his stage musical of the same name.
The film follows the story of Hedwig Robinson, a transgender rock musician from East Berlin who undergoes a botched gender reassignment surgery and forms a band, the Angry Inch, to perform her own music in the United States.
Throughout the film, Hedwig recounts her life story, including her traumatic childhood, her struggles with love and identity, and her quest for self-acceptance.
The film was praised for its unique blend of rock music, comedy, and heartfelt drama, as well as its groundbreaking depiction of LGBTQ+ characters and themes.
John Cameron Mitchell delivers a powerful and vulnerable performance as Hedwig, while the film’s supporting cast, including Miriam Shor and Michael Pitt, also shine in their respective roles.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a trailblazing film that challenges conventional notions of gender and sexuality, while also offering a poignant and universal message about the human experience.
The movie’s infectious music, irreverent humor, and heartfelt story make it a must-see for fans of musicals and for anyone interested in exploring the complexity and beauty of the human spirit.
19. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a 2007 musical horror film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
The film is based on the 1979 musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, which in turn was based on the 19th-century British legend of Sweeney Todd.
A barber who murders his clients and then disposes of their bodies with the help of his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, who uses the flesh to make meat pies.
The film features a dark and gothic visual style, typical of Tim Burton’s movies, and showcases the talents of Depp and Carter in the lead roles.
Depp’s portrayal of Sweeney Todd is particularly notable for its intensity and brooding, as well as his singing abilities, which were previously unknown to many fans.
The film’s musical numbers are haunting and memorable, with standout songs including “Epiphany,” “A Little Priest,” and “Johanna.”
The film’s themes of revenge, betrayal, and the corrupting influence of power are also explored in depth, adding depth and complexity to the story.
Overall, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a gripping and atmospheric film that showcases the talents of its director and cast. Its blend of horror, music, and drama make it a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience.
20. For Me and My Gal (1942)
“For Me and My Gal” is a 1942 musical film directed by Busby Berkeley and starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and George Murphy.
The story follows two vaudeville performers, Jo Hayden (Garland) and Harry Palmer (Kelly), who fall in love and dream of making it big on Broadway.
The film features a number of memorable musical numbers, including the title song “For Me and My Gal”, “When You Wore a Tulip”, and “Ballin’ the Jack”.
Garland and Kelly both deliver standout performances, showcasing their incredible singing and dancing abilities.
The film also offers a nostalgic look at the vaudeville era, with its variety of acts and performers, as well as the challenges and hardships faced by those trying to make it in show business.
Overall, “For Me and My Gal” is a charming and entertaining musical film that showcases the talents of its lead performers and offers a glimpse into a bygone era of entertainment. It remains a classic and beloved film for fans of musicals and classic Hollywood cinema.
3 Characteristics of Musical Movies
Musical numbers: The most defining characteristic of a musical movie is its use of musical numbers, where characters express their emotions, advance the plot, or provide commentary through song and dance.
These numbers can be integrated seamlessly into the narrative, or they may be staged as elaborate set pieces that interrupt the story. Regardless of their placement, musical numbers are a key feature of the genre.
Use of music to enhance the story: Music is not just used for the musical numbers, but it is also used throughout the movie to set the mood, enhance the emotion, or provide an overarching theme.
The music can be used to highlight a particular character, to convey a particular message, or to provide insight into the setting or time period in which the story is set.
Spectacle and showmanship: Musical movies often use spectacle and showmanship to entertain the audience.
This can take the form of elaborate sets, costumes, and choreography that are designed to dazzle the viewer. The genre also tends to showcase the talents of its performers, particularly in the lead roles, who are often required to sing and dance in addition to acting.
These are just a few of the characteristics that define the musical movie genre. Other common elements include love stories, themes of self-discovery, and upbeat, optimistic endings.
3 Reasons To Watch Musical Movies
Escape into a world of music and dance: Musical movies offer a great escape from reality, transporting you into a world of music, dance, and color.
They provide a chance to lose yourself in the joy and excitement of the music and to forget about the worries of everyday life.
Showcase of talent: Musical movies are a great platform for showcasing the talents of performers, including singers, dancers, and actors.
Watching a great musical performance can be awe-inspiring and provide a renewed appreciation for the skills required to bring a musical to life.
Emotional connection: Music has the power to move us emotionally, and musical movies are no exception.
The combination of music and storytelling can create a powerful emotional connection with the audience, making us laugh, cry, and feel a wide range of emotions.
The songs and music can also stay with us long after the movie is over, evoking memories and emotions whenever we hear them.
Best Musical Movies – Wrap Up
In conclusion, musical movies have been a beloved genre for decades, with countless films featuring memorable music, talented performers, and engaging storylines.
Whether you’re a fan of classic Hollywood musicals or contemporary musicals, there are plenty of movies to choose from that showcase the best of this genre.
Some of the standout movies discussed in this series include “The Sound of Music,” “Grease,” “La La Land,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “West Side Story,” “Chicago,” and “Moulin Rouge!” Each of these films has made a significant impact on the genre, with memorable songs, dance sequences, and performances that have stood the test of time.
Other notable musical movies include “Dreamgirls,” “Hairspray,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and “Mary Poppins.” Each of these films has its own unique style and memorable moments that make them a must-watch for fans of musicals.
Overall, the musical genre has something to offer for everyone, from fans of classic Hollywood movies to contemporary audiences looking for new and innovative takes on the genre.
With its catchy music, talented performers, and engaging storylines, musical movies continue to captivate audiences around the world.